Teacher, It’s Cold Outside: Ideas for Relatable Science & Student Engagement

Tch Next Gen Science Squad

So much science to know (Teacher, it’s cold outside.)

Why icicles glisten and glow (Teacher, it’s cold outside.)

What matter makes up snow? (Your students will want to know.)

Why is winter so cold? (Teacher, you’ll freeze out there!)

Teacher, it’s cold outside.

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Students never seem to lose their sense of wonder when it comes to snow. The unexpected snow day, delayed start, or early dismissal has the potential to take student learning off the clear path you’ve carefully shoveled as schedules are rearranged and students are excited to play — no matter their age.

But play during the long, cold, and sometimes unpredictable months of winter doesn’t have to be limited to the outdoors.

What can you do in the classroom with students on short, cold, snowy, icy, and stormy days?

Create relevant learning experiences and increase student engagement!  

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Tch Talks 22: Intention & Critical Creativity in the Classroom

Tch Talks with microphone

What is Critical Creativity?

To Dan Ryder and Amy Burval, critical creativity is “students using creative expression to demonstrate deeper thinking and the nuances of understanding content.” It’s a portmanteau of sorts, which has the potential to turn ideas into action and push your students toward deeper learning and meaningful understanding.

Dan and Amy believe that, “When students make connections, transform knowledge, and articulate the reasons behind their creative choices, learning becomes more sticky, meaningful, and authentic.” Articulation of creative reasoning is key, because as students learn the power of explanation, rationale, and intentionality, they shift from passive pupils along for the ride to active drivers of their own learning. And the best part of this shift is that it occurs in the midst of purposeful play.

On this episode of Tch Talks, Dan Ryder, Education Director of the Success and Innovation Center at Mt. Blue High School in Farmington, Maine, joins us to talk about his and Amy’s new book, Intention: Critical Creativity in the Classroom, and how a little rigorous whimsy can help you transform learning in your classroom right now.

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Why I Write Minecraft-Inspired Fiction

I came to writing books for kids through a very peculiar path. My journey began when my son discovered Minecraft.

According to Common Sense Media, “Minecraft is an open-ended, exploration- and creation-focused environment. Players can create items and buildings from scratch using materials they harvest from the world around them.” My son was very eager to be a part of this new phenomenon. In fact, if you asked him, he’d tell you he had to have it or he was going to die!

My wife and I put up a good fight, but our son was relentless. We ultimately caved and bought him the game. We were surprised and quite pleased with what he did with this new digital power. He built incredible structures, created cities and castles of glass, and floating giants. We’d never seen him so creative or engaged. It was fantastic.

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Planning for Personalized and Customized Learning

This school year, I’ve been on a journey to put my students at the center of our learning. That means finding ways to make the learning meaningful to my students as people — that is, personalized. And it means being responsive to their needs as learners — in other words, customized.

Most of my efforts to meet this call have meant developing completely new units, and that’s been exhausting and won’t scale for teachers with multiple preps or those seeking life-balance. Moving into the fourth quarter of this school year, I sought support. I sat down with colleagues to learn how to work toward these ends from our existing curriculum for 10th grade English. The unit from which we worked had two summative assessments: a literary analysis essay on Ibsen’s A Doll’s House, and a multimedia presentation based on a social issue.

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Unstoppable Learning: Making Room For Students’ Passions

I came back from my morning run completely energized. I took my headphones off and continued to puzzle over Sugata Mitra’s compelling segment on the TED Radio Hour, Unstoppable Learning, which I had been listening to and which suggested that in many ways, teachers are getting in the way of learning.

A tough pill for me — a teacher of seven years — to swallow.

I scrawled some thoughts in my journal — “students in pursuit of learning,” “fostering curiosity,” “CHOICE,” “unstoppable learning…” — and grinned as I imagined what this transformation could look like in my classroom. This always happens, I reflected. I get the best ideas when I have more time to listen, to read, to run. I always learn the most when I have space just to think. As a new mother and a classroom teacher, lead teacher, mentor, fellow, friend, and wife, my days are jam packed. Further, my time is often completely scheduled. The time and space to read and think is few and far between. But making space for it is so, so important.

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